11 April 2024

Does Pakistan Still Matter to India?


Among the many issues that will confront the government that emerges from India’s upcoming general election – running from April 19 through June 1 – one of the most important will be what to do about the country’s frayed relationship with its troubled neighbor, Pakistan. The answer may be simple: not much.

Until recently, there was some hope that elections in both countries in the first half of 2024 might create an opportunity for a fresh start. But any optimism about the bilateral relationship’s future quickly dissipated after Pakistan’s controversial February election: with the popular former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party having been barred from running, the new government’s legitimacy is widely challenged.

A weak Pakistani coalition government propped up by the military is unlikely to be able to undertake any bold diplomatic initiative toward India, especially because Khan’s supporters, who consider themselves unfairly deprived of power, are liable to challenge any significant policy change. Under these circumstances, India will probably be inclined to maintain its policy of watchful “benign neglect” toward Pakistan.

As it stands, India and Pakistan maintain diplomatic relations at the charge d’affaires level (a notch below the ambassadorial level), but engage on few issues and speak past each other in the few forums in which they both participate. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation has been left moribund by their mutual hostility, having gone years without a meeting.

Moreover, bilateral trade is minimal, and exchanges among ordinary people are limited. Indian citizens struggle to get visas to visit Pakistan, and vice versa. Even in sporting events, the two countries rarely compete with each other outside of international tournaments. In short, India and Pakistan are next-door neighbors who are not on speaking terms – and, in India’s view, that is just fine.

Both Democracies, But India-US Differences Nagging – OpEd

Subir Bhaumik

The world has heard enough of those cliche — cooperation between the world’s oldest democracy, the United States, and the world’s most populous democracy, India, is touching new heights. So much so that India’s controversial Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to the extent of backing Donald Trump’s back to power campaign by openly exhorting Indian-Americans to vote for him by his now famous slogan “Ab ki bar, Trump Sarkar” (this time on, Trump government again).

When Joe Biden and not Donald Trump won the US presidency, Modi’s spin doctors worked overtime to make amends. An initially unforgiving Democrat administration sought to pin down Modi on the rights issue.

Reports on religious freedom and human rights by US congressional committees and influential think tanks indicated ‘deepening US concerns’ over PM Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) making India less tolerant of minorities, especially Muslims.

Modi’s 2019 revocation of the special semi-autonomous status—granted under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution—to Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir has been followed by repressive government policies in Kasmir such as curbs to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and other basic rights. These have found pointed mentions in US government reports and those by think tanks, some close to the US deep state.

Later that year, the Indian Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, providing a fast track for non-Muslims in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to become Indian citizens—a move that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom condemned as “a significant downward turn in religious freedom in India.” After being held up for years because of numerous protests, the law finally went into effect this March. In January, Modi’s inauguration of a new Hindu temple in Ayodhya, known as Ram Mandir, built on the ruins of the 16th century Babri Masjid mosque that Hindu nationalists tore down in 1992, raised fresh questions about India’s future as a secular and tolerant nation.

How the Katchatheevu Island Controversy Impacts India’s ‘Neighborhood First’ Diplomacy

Rushali Saha

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent tweet condemning the Congress Party’s decision to accept Sri Lanka’s sovereignty claims over Katchatheevu Island, situated in the Palk Strait, back in 1974, has sparked a major political controversy. He accused the opposition Congress party of weakening India’s “unity, integrity and interest” through this “callous” decision. Sharing this sentiment, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, claimed that ceding this territory had violated the rights of Indian fishermen.

Sri Lanka’s official reaction has been one of dismissal, as reflected in the remarks of Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, who said there was no reason for re-opening talks on an issue that had been “resolved.” Within Sri Lanka’s civil society, there has been more critical opposition to these remarks, which are being described as “unnecessary provocation… that could have serious repercussions.” Members of New Delhi’s strategic community also warn that such remarks could damage India’s credibility and prove to be a “self-goal” for the government.

While it is true that alleged poaching by Indian fishers, and subsequent arrests by Sri Lanka navy, are witnessed in the Palk Bay, owing to its proximity to the Indian coast, reports of arrests of Indian nationals by the Sri Lankan navy extend well beyond the tiny island, including off the northwestern coast.

At the heart of the Sri Lankan fishermen’s complaints is the use of bottom trawling by Indian fishermen and their use of monofilament nets. The Modi government itself initiated measures to stop bottom trawling; it is clear that implementation of the same has failed as this unsustainable practice continues unabated.

US-India Defense Ties Marching Ahead Fast

Rupakjyoti Borah

A recent report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) makes for interesting reading. It notes that India was the world’s top arms importer between 2019 and 2023, with its imports having gone up by 4.7 percent compared to the period between 2014 and 2018. The same report also notes that “although Russia remained India’s main arms supplier [accounting for 36% of its arms imports], this was the first five-year period since 1960–64 when deliveries from Russia [or the Soviet Union prior to 1991] made up less than half of India’s arms imports.”

This shows that although Russia is still India’s biggest weapons supplier, weapons sales from the U.S. to India have increased dramatically. India now buys a whole range of defense weaponry from the United States. This includes C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, MH-60 Romeo helicopters, P8I Poseidon Maritime reconnaissance aircraft, and many more deals are in the works.

It is to be noted here that during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landmark state visit to the U.S. in June last year, the U.S. company GE Aerospace inked a pact with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to jointly produce fighter jet engines for Indian Air Force’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)-Mk-II—Tejas. This is a landmark deal for both countries and could open doors for many more deals to come.

So, What Has Changed?

Russia (and its predecessor the Soviet Union) used to be the main source of weaponry for India, but now India is drawing from a wide variety of countries like the U.S., France and others like Israel. For India, the U.S. is a very important partner as it faces twin threats from Pakistan in its western flank and China on its northern flank.

The relations between India and the U.S. changed in the aftermath of the landmark U.S.-India nuclear deal of 2008 under which the U.S. agreed to do nuclear commerce with India, although India has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or the CTBT (Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty).

Is India Really the Next China?

Josh Felman

Will India be the next China? As China’s economy spirals downward and optimism about India’s growth reverberates around the world, that question can no longer be dismissed as the fevered fantasy of nationalists. It needs to be taken seriously—not least because the world is already behaving as if India is a major power.

The New Idea of India

Ravi Agrawal

From the middle of April until early June, staggered over the course of several weeks, the world’s biggest election will take place. More than 960 million Indians—out of a population of 1.4 billion—are eligible to vote in parliamentary elections that polls strongly suggest will return Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power for a third consecutive term.

Rebels Push Over 600 Junta Personnel Out Of Myanmar-Thailand Border Town

Myanmar junta forces, pushed out by rebel groups at Kayin state’s border township of Myawaddy, have requested to be evacuated with their family members through a Thai border town, Thailand’s foreign ministry said on Monday.

“After receiving the said request, and upon considering the urgency of the situation and the possibility of an evacuation of Myanmar personnel and their families to safe areas, a decision was made at the government level to approve the request from Myanmar on humanitarian grounds,” said the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.

Around 617 personnel have requested evacuation, including 410 soldiers and 207 family members, according to Thai media.

Allied rebel armed groups in Kayin state, which border’s Thailand Tak province, have suspended some of the junta’s local government offices in the major trade hub township of Myawaddy since Saturday, said a local businessman.

“At Friendship Bridge No. 1 also, immigration is issuing papers for people to cross [over the border], working as usual,” he said, declining to be named for security reasons. “The usual police, Office of the Chief of Military Security Affairs and Bureau of Special Investigation were not seen at Friendship Bridge No. 1.”

Friendship Bridge No. 1 connects the Thai city of Mae Sot with Myanmar’s Myawaddy and has been run by Myanmar’s junta since it reopened in 2023 after a three-year hiatus.

The Karen Nation Union, working with guerrilla armies, or the People’s Defense Forces, and the Border Guard Forces on Saturday’s maneuver, has not issued any updates about their hold on Myawaddy since the Thai ministry’s announcement.

The group announced on Saturday it captured Thin Gan Nyi Naung village in Myawaddy district, still 12 kilometers (seven miles) from the border. In 2023, it seized a mountain overlooking Myawaddy, and took control of the city’s Asian Highway in December.

Bangladesh’s Use Of Chinese Currency Will Secure Foreign Reserves And Enhance Financial Stability – OpEd

Kamal Uddin Mazumder

Amidst the challenges of rising import costs and dwindling foreign reserves, Bangladesh’s recent move to adopt the Chinese currency for bilateral trade with China is a bold and strategic step. The inclusion of the Chinese Yuan in the Real-Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system by Bangladesh Bank (BB) and the ongoing efforts to join China’s Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS), a system that mirrors SWIFT for international transaction messaging, are clear signals of this significant development. These actions, against the backdrop of persistent volatility in Bangladesh’s foreign exchange market and China’s drive to internationalize its currency, mark a significant development in the economic ties between the two nations.

Despite efforts by Bangladesh Bank to stabilize the country’s economy through significant dollar sales from reserves, the country faced persistent volatility in its foreign exchange market in 2023. To counter market instability, Bangladesh Bank disbursed $6.7 billion from reserves and bought approximately one billion dollars from commercial banks. Concerns were voiced about conservative exchange rate policies impeding efforts to curb trade-based capital flight. Bangladesh Bank’s spokesperson underscored a foreign exchange crisis driven by import costs surpassing export income and below-expectation remittances. While reserves saw a temporary increase, impending bill payments threatened to deplete reserves again, highlighting the ongoing challenges in Bangladesh’s foreign exchange market and the immediate need for reform and resilience.

Contrarily, despite a challenging year for Chinese assets, the yuan is gaining ground as an international payment option. Despite hurdles like China’s capital controls, the growing trend to conduct trade in yuan could provide a buffer to China’s economy, particularly in hypothetical conflict scenarios with the West. Swift-based global payments denominated in yuan have surged, reaching 3.6% in October 2023, up from less than 2% earlier in the year. The yuan’s ascendance in global trade could have profound implications, especially as global trade routes evolve and payment systems become more fragmented.

Putin and Xi’s Unholy Alliance

Alexander Gabuev

Just a decade ago, most U.S. and European officials were dismissive about the durability of the emerging partnership between China and Russia. The thinking in Western capitals was that the Kremlin’s ostentatious rapprochement with China since 2014 was doomed to fail because ties between the two Eurasian giants would always be undercut by the growing power asymmetry in China’s favor, the lingering mistrust between the two neighbors over a number of historical disputes, and the cultural distance between the two societies and between their elites. No matter how hard Russian President Vladimir Putin might try to woo the Chinese leadership, the argument went, China would always value its ties to the United States and to U.S. allies over its symbolic relations with Russia, while Moscow would fear a rising Beijing and seek a counterbalance in the West.

Even as China and Russia have grown significantly closer, officials in Washington have remained dismissive. “They have a marriage of convenience,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told U.S. senators in March 2023 during Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s state visit to Moscow. “I am not sure if it is conviction. Russia is very much the junior partner in this relationship.” And yet that skepticism fails to reckon with an important and grim reality: China and Russia are more firmly aligned now than at any time since the 1950s.

The tightening of this alignment between Russia and China is one of the most important geopolitical outcomes of Putin’s war against Ukraine. The conscious efforts of Xi and Putin drive much of this reorientation, but it is also the byproduct of the deepening schism between the West and both countries. Western officials cannot wish this axis away, hoping in vain that the Kremlin bridles at its vassalage to Zhongnanhai or making futile attempts to drive a wedge between the two powers. Instead, the West should be prepared for an extended period of simultaneous confrontation with two immense nuclear-armed powers.

“The Battle of the Straits: A Geopolitical Maelstrom”

Isaiah (Ike) Wilson III, PhD

This near-future vignette posits a scenario where maritime chokepoints become the stages for a new brand of warfare—a conflict fought in the shadows, where the weapons are as likely to be cyber as they are to be traditional arms. It underscores the fragility of global trade networks and the precariousness of geopolitics in a multipolar world where strategic waterways have become the chessboard for Great Power confrontation.

In this scenario, "The Battle of the Straits" would drastically reshape the global geo-economic landscape. Nations would grapple with the impact of increased military expenditure at the expense of economic development, high commodity prices causing economic hardships, and shifts in trade alliances that could alter the balance of global power. The interconnected nature of global trade means that even localized disruptions can have cascading effects, highlighting the need for peaceful navigation and cooperation across the world's maritime chokepoints. This fiction underscores the delicate balance of global trade, the fragility of which could lead to catastrophic consequences in the face of rising geopolitical tensions.

Year: 2028

The world teeters on the brink of a new form of conflict, where old rivalries ignite over the jugular veins of global trade: the world’s strategic maritime chokepoints. Tensions have been simmering, and a series of incidents across the globe signals the escalation of what future historians will call "The Battle of the Straits."[1]

Strait of Hormuz:

Iran’s Order of Chaos

Suzanne Maloney

The Israel-Hamas war—and the possibility that it may explode into a wider conflagration—has upended the determined efforts of three U.S. presidents to pivot American resources and focus away from the Middle East. Immediately after Hamas’s October 7 attack, U.S. President Joe Biden moved quickly to support Israel, a critical American ally, and deter the expansion of hostilities. But as of this writing, the conflict has become a hellish impasse. The security imperatives driving the war command wide support among the Israeli public, yet months of intense Israeli operations have failed to eliminate Hamas, killed tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians, and precipitated a humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip. And as the crisis expands, so, too, have the United States’ engagements in the Middle East. In the months after October 7, Washington delivered aid shipments to besieged Gazans, launched military operations to protect maritime transit, worked to contain the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, strove to degrade the capabilities of other disruptive militias from Iraq to Yemen, and pursued ambitious diplomatic initiatives to foster the normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Reengaging with the Middle East presents risks for Biden, especially as he campaigns for reelection against his predecessor, Donald Trump, whose critiques of the human and economic costs of America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan resonated with voters and boosted his 2016 presidential campaign. In a Quinnipiac poll conducted three weeks after Hamas’s attack, an overwhelming 84 percent of Americans expressed concern that the United States could be drawn into direct military involvement in the Middle East conflict, and only one in five respondents to a February 2024 Pew survey agreed that the United States should make a “major” diplomatic push to end the Israel-Hamas war. But the risks posed by timidity are even greater. One regional actor particularly benefits from Washington’s hesitation or disengagement: the Islamic Republic of Iran. In fact, the quagmire in the Middle East presents an opportunity for a breakthrough in a four-decade strategy by Tehran to debilitate one of its foremost regional adversaries, Israel—and to humiliate the United States and drastically diminish its influence in the region.

Damming The Blue Nile: Will Ethiopian-Egyptian Tensions Ignite? – Analysis

Martin Sherman

Largely ignored in western commentary, a dispute between two western-aligned governments in Africa threatens to erupt into open conflict. The dispute focuses on distribution of the waters of the continent’s mightiest river system among its second and third most populous nations—Ethiopia and Egypt, respectively.

The roots of tension are twofold, one legal; the other engineering—the former entailing an almost one-hundred-year-old legal document; the other a massive hydroelectric enterprise in the deep gorges of the Ethiopian Highlands.

The History of the Allocation of the Nile

The history of the conflict traces back to an agreement from the colonial era when the 1929 Anglo-Egyptian agreement was concluded between Egypt and Great Britain regarding the utilization of the waters of the Nile River, with Britain representing its upstream colonies in the Nile River Basin—Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyika (today, Tanzania)—who had little say in determining its terms (Britain’s agricultural interests in Egypt and importance of the Suez canal for its empire were among the reasons cited for imposing the agreement so strongly skewed in its favor). For decades, the waters of the Nile have been administered and allocated according to this 1929 treaty, which granted Egypt veto power over construction projects on the Nile River or any of its tributaries.

With the end of colonial rule—prior to Cairo’s construction of the Aswan High Dam in 1960, which would flood extensive areas of Northern Sudan—this accord was followed by a later 1959 Agreement, concluded bilaterally between Egypt and post-colonial Sudan.

This latter agreement effectively reinforced the provisions of the 1929 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, making little allowance for the water needs of the other down-stream riparian states, including Ethiopia, which was not a signatory to either agreement and whose highlands supply more than 80 percent of the water that flows into the Nile River.

It’s Time for a U.S. STEM Talent Strategy To Compete With China

Dan Reed & Dario Gil

U.S. innovation fuels our economic strength and is vital for our national security. Released last earlier this month, the National Science Board’s congressionally mandated State of U.S. Science and Engineering Indicators report shows that an accelerating science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) talent crisis is imperiling America’s economy and security.

Let’s start with a bit of perspective. The U.S. STEM workforce is now one quarter of the total U.S. workforce – 38 million people at all degree levels who use STEM skills in their jobs, including 19 million skilled technical workers without a bachelor’s degree. That number will only rise as companies expand their STEM workforce and their R&D investments in response to rising global competition. The CHIPS & Science Act is now funding one response to global competition and national security risk -- the reshoring of our semiconductor production.

Meanwhile, key technological sectors, including semiconductors, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity, face major challenges in filling urgently needed job openings, and making the promise of economic development a reality. Let’s be clear –China is gaining on us, and it has articulated plans to increase its R&D investment even further. Indicators data show that China recently surpassed the United States in research publications and patent applications, and China’s growth in high impact articles is outpacing its overall growth in publications. These overall trends are also true for the specific field of artificial intelligence – a field that is critical to national security. We cannot risk falling behind.

We must address this crisis now. How?

First, we must increase the flow of domestic talent into the STEM workforce. To start, Congress must fully fund the remaining parts of CHIPS & Science Act – investing in developing the STEM workforce, from preK-12 education through skilled technical workers and college STEM graduates to doctoral-level researchers in industry and academia. Sadly, the spending bill that Congress just passed cuts some of our most important science federal agencies, like the National Science Foundation, moving us backwards.

America’s Next Soldiers Will Be Machines

Jack Detsch

For as long as the United States has had an army, U.S. infantry soldiers have stuck by one motto: “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes.”

But fighting on the U.S. Army’s largest training ground last month, Lt. Isaac McCurdy and his platoon of infantry troops, playing a fictional enemy of the United States, found themselves up against a very different kind of foe: one with camera lenses for eyes and sheet metal for skin.

These weren’t your average flesh-and-blood men that they were fighting. They were machines.

Driving on eight screeching wheels and carrying enough firepower on their truck beds to fill a small arms depot, a handful of U.S. Army robots stormed through the battlefield of the fictional city of Ujen.

The robots shot up houses where the opposition force hid. Drones that had been loitering over the battlefield for hours hovered above McCurdy and his team and dropped “bombs”—foam footballs, in this case—right on top of them, a perfectly placed artillery shot. Robot dogs, with sensors for heads, searched houses to make sure they were clear.

“If you see the whites of someone’s eyes or their sunglasses, [and] you shoot back at that, they’re going to have a human response,” McCurdy said. “If it’s a robot pulling up, shooting something that’s bigger than you can carry yourself, and it’s not going to just die when you shoot a center mass, it’s a very different feeling.”

A robotic dog moves across a sandy desert landscape through the purple smoke of a flare. Solders holding guns crouch behind the four-legged robot, taking shelter against a wall.

Ships, Trains, and Trucks: Unlocking Ukraine’s Vital Trade Potential

Romina Bandura, Ilya Timtchenko, and Benjamin Robb

Transport and logistics infrastructure serves as a country’s main trade arteries, facilitating the flow of people, goods, and services. Without this vital infrastructure, a country’s economic potential is stifled. In the case of Ukraine, Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022 had devastating effects on its economy, including its ability to trade. Due to constant and indiscriminate Russian missile attacks, Ukraine suffered massive destruction of its transport and logistics infrastructure, with air cargo totally suspended and port activity severely interrupted. As a result, Ukraine has to be creative in finding new trade corridors to support business operations and enable the flow of humanitarian and military aid. To that effect, this white paper analyzes how the country has been adapting its trade routes and related infrastructure in wartime and provides recommendations to sustain trade and economic activity now and in the future.

Current Trade Challenges

Ukraine is facing numerous challenges to its trade-related infrastructure. Even before the full-scale invasion, the quality of Ukraine’s infrastructure was low due to the decades-long absence of critical investments. The 2022 invasion has added more complexities to this situation. First, Russian air strikes have destroyed and damaged transport and logistics infrastructure including key ports, roads, and grain silos, rendering these assets unusable or in need of repair and rebuilding. Second, shipping through the Black Sea, a main artery for trade for agricultural products, has partially rebounded but remains susceptible to attacks. Moreover, finding alternative routes for grain shipments via train and roads through Ukraine’s western borders has led to disruptions with neighboring countries and additional time and transportation costs. Third, given the unpredictability of Russian attacks and the duration of the war, insurance for physical assets, such as vessels and silos, and business operations is expensive or lacking altogether. Lastly, all these transportation modes are labor intensive. Personnel shortages abound across sectors as many Ukrainians have left the country or have been mobilized for the army. Transportation is not immune to these trends.

Leveling the playing field: U.S. needs new tactics for space competition

Clayton Swope

China’a digital communications technology conglomerate Huawei grew faster in 2023 than during any of the past four years. This follows Huawei’s introduction of a new smartphone in August 2023 powered by a sophisticated processor which U.S. experts did not think could be made in China.

Another Chinese telecommunication firm, ZTE, also reported significant growth last year. We should be prepared for the same story to unfold in China’s space industry.

China will be able to make ever more sophisticated space systems, with more advanced payloads, using domestically produced components. Chinese space companies, subsidized by investments from Beijing, will find customers around the world eager to buy their affordable products and services.

Given these trends, how can the United States maintain its commercial competitive edge in space? The U.S. government will have to use all tools at its disposal. This means going toe to toe with China to set international space standards, working with U.S. companies to close foreign deals, and reassessing export controls.

To many of us in the United States, it might be surprising that the biggest-name Chinese telecom companies have had such a strong showing. After all, Huawei and ZTE have effectively been squeezed out of the United States, as well as Canada and the United Kingdom, given bipartisan security concerns and policy actions to ban their equipment.

However, they have found success elsewhere. Huawei saw significant growth in China and other parts of the Americas. Its telecommunications infrastructure business, which accounts for over half of Huawei’s revenue, also grew last year.

Ukraine war ceasefire may require accepting a partition


To settle the Russo-Ukraine war diplomatically, a number of analysts have suggested that the apparent military stalemate be accepted in a ceasefire agreement in which Ukraine would be partitioned along the current battle lines.

One possibility would be to include in such an agreement a formal legal acceptance of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and of the areas it now controls in southeast Ukraine. Another, more plausible possibility would be to leave the issue of formal acceptance open to further negotiation after armed hostilities have ended. That was the path accepted for the division of Korea after the war there ended in 1953. (Seventy years later, a formal settlement of the war has yet to be worked out.) And a third alternative would be to formally accept Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea while leaving the territorial acquisitions in its 2022 invasion up for later negotiation.

All three ceasefire proposals assume that Ukraine would give up about 18 percent of its pre-2014 territory at least for the time being.

Beyond halting the ongoing mayhem and destruction, Ukraine would gain two advantages from these ceasefire possibilities.

First, Ukraine is, economically speaking, better off without the areas captured by the Russians. Crimea and the Donbas area were a drain on Kyiv before the Russian incursions, and the situation in Crimea is probably even worse now as it no longer has appeal to well-heeled tourists from Europe. And much of the rest of the captured territory, from which over half the population has fled, is something of a rubble heap which the Russians would have to pay to reconstruct. Indeed, estimates are that they already are paying out some $11 billion per year in the occupied territories. Even after ceasefire and partition, they would likely have to police their occupation against insurgents.

Horror and Humiliation in Gaza


Like the Nazis, Islamist terrorism weaponized horror to demoralize the West. Christianity has a soft underbelly: It struggles to reconcile belief in a God who so loved the world that He sacrificed Himself for its salvation with the suffering of innocents. That was the nub of Voltaire’s attack on theodicy after the Lisbon earthquake killed 12,000 in 1755, as well as Ivan Karamazov’s protest that “if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.”

The post-Christian world, which eschews the mystery of Divine Providence in favor of a squeamish urge for earthly salvation, is all the more vulnerable to the theater of horror. The post-Christian West has become paralyzed by the fear that the world is beset by forces hostile to humankind, which J.R.R. Tolkien called “the black breath.”

All too well have the Western-educated, multilingual leaders of Hamas gauged the spiritual state of the West, and invented an atrocious way of conducting war in order to psychically paralyze it. Hamas cannot win a war against Israel, but it has sufficient power to force Israel to fight a war that cost many civilian lives. Whether the civilian death toll is the 32,000 that Hamas claims or the 18,000 estimated by pro-Israeli analysts is of minor importance.

During the U.S. Marines’ siege of Fallujah 20 years ago, I wrote that the battle for that city brought into focus the vulnerabilities of both the Americans and the Sunni resistance. Horror—the perception that cruelty has no purpose and no end—is lethal to the West, which cannot endure without faith in a loving Heavenly Father. For the Islamic world, meanwhile, humiliation—the perception that the ummah cannot reward those who submit to it—is beyond its capacity to endure.

Horror was the prevailing affect of the god-haunted pagan world, a creation indifferent or even hostile to humankind. The source of pagan horror is the prospect of ethnic extinction.

The Middle East Is Still Post-American

Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson

After years of being sidelined by successive U.S. administrations, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been thrust back to the center of U.S. foreign policy. As some analysts now argue, given the intensity of the conflict in the Gaza Strip and the growing threat of a wider regional war, the past six months’ events will necessarily galvanize U.S. engagement in the Middle East for the foreseeable future. The prevailing view is that the United States must bring stability to the region or watch it descend into chaos—leaving a vacuum that Washington will have to fill either to deny the region to a rival power or to stanch radiating violence that reaches the United States and could impel intervention. After years of efforts to pivot away from the region, the logic goes, Washington will now be forced to be actively engaged—militarily and diplomatically—on an ongoing basis.

Although these assessments make sense in the heat of the current war, they are less persuasive as a premise for medium- and long-term U.S. policy. To judge from existing U.S. relationships in the region, as well as from prevailing power dynamics and U.S. policy priorities in recent years, the Middle East that emerges from the Gaza crisis will not be much different from the one that preceded it. Indeed, the general direction of U.S. policy seems likely to continue. Notwithstanding its intensity, regional powers have been approaching the current crisis cautiously or are just ignoring it. Furthermore, Israel and Saudi Arabia—the two most strategically important countries in the region for the United States—have become less responsive to American preferences and, despite stepped-up U.S. engagement, show little sign of renewed interest in what Washington wants. As a result, U.S. foreign policy in the region after the Gaza crisis may be less a question of how to bring the United States back to the Middle East than of how to better manage strategic distance from the region while still exerting a degree of influence.


In late 2015, we argued in Foreign Affairs that the United States could substantially pull back from the Middle East. At the time, the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had demonstrated America’s inability to employ immersive military and political means—in particular, counterinsurgency and nation building—to export liberal democracy. 

Will Israel’s War Expand?

Douglas Macgregor

In the history of U.S. foreign and defense strategy, no presidential administration ever cultivated the rise of new, powerful groupings of nation states that oppose the United States in every sphere of meaningful human endeavor on the scale of the Biden administration. In a world of competing blocs, much of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and several European states are now united by events in Ukraine and the Middle East to overturn America’s global dominance.

Seventy-four years ago, General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower expressed the hope that access to more accurate information would prevent future generations of Americans from stumbling into war “at the whim of the man who happens to be president.” Eisenhower was referring to the provocative policies of President Franklin Roosevelt that pushed a recalcitrant American public into a two-front war in Asia and Europe when the U.S. Armed Forces were not capable of decisive operations in just one theater of war.

Thanks to America’s insular position between two great oceans and the enormous sacrifices of British and Soviet forces, the U.S. Armed Forces were given the time to build up to fight in the Second World War. Unfortunately, no such strategic advantages accrue to contemporary Washington. It’s 2024, not 1941.

Still, President Biden appears to be following the FDR pattern. The influence of FDR’s high-stakes strategic gamble in the dangerous runup to the Second World War has been repeated and is now on display in Ukraine and the Middle East and in Washington’s determination to back Israel’s ruthless war to kill or expel the Arab population from Gaza.

Washington’s strategic failure in Ukraine has already tilted Europe’s strategic equilibrium sharply in Russia’s favor. The persistent tendency in the White House and Congress to grossly underestimate Russian technology (particularly hypersonic missiles), manufacturing power, and operational art was fatal error. Washington’s refusal to negotiate with Moscow is consigning the Ukrainian Nation to extinction. This mentality means more Ukrainian soldiers will die pointlessly when a powerful Russian summer offensive will finally end the war on Moscow’s terms.

Israel's Gaza withdrawal hints at what comes next

Sebastian Usher

The Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza announced on Sunday was greeted with widespread surprise, even as the Israeli army and government have been at pains to stress that it has no great significance.

But to a world that has watched the intensity of Israel's bombardment, the idea that there was now just one brigade left in the entire enclave seemed to signify some major shift in the war.

And then there was the timing of the announcement - on the very day that marked the grim milestone of six months since the Hamas-led assault on Israel ignited this latest and bloodiest phase in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Don't read too much into it," a spokesperson for the Israeli prime minister's office told journalists the next day. Avi Hyman stressed how small the distances involved are and that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would therefore continue to be able to take whatever action it deemed necessary, with or without troops stationed inside Gaza.

As if to prove the point - just hours later, the Israeli army said it "eliminated" a senior Hamas operative, Hatem al-Ghamri, in an air strike.

The Israeli media has, however, responded very differently.

In the widely read and right-wing Israel Hayom, the paper's diplomatic correspondent Ariel Kahana tied the troop withdrawal to pressure on the Israeli government to agree a ceasefire deal with Hamas in the latest round of talks.

"The formal reasons offered by Israeli spokespersons for halting the war were operational in nature, but every intelligent person can see that the timing is hardly coincidental. Ahead of critical talks, the Israeli capitulation was designed - without saying so explicitly - to signal to Hamas that Israel was being very forthcoming with it from its perspective."

The Hungarian Crisis

George Friedman

Viktor Orban governed Hungary from 1998 to 2002 and again from 2010 to the present. In that time, he has dominated Hungarian politics and, to a great extent, Hungarian life. But late last week, his reign was challenged as tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Budapest, calling for his downfall. Demonstrations continued through the weekend. Since Orban assumed the premiership more than a decade ago, the Hungarian opposition has been fractured and generally ineffective. For so many people to rally against his rule after so much time is therefore a stunning event, regardless of whether it leads to his removal.

As the leader of Hungary, Orban created an ideology that has influenced other countries. It has two critical dimensions. The first is opposition to migration into Hungary. A decade ago, millions of people from the Middle East sought refuge in Europe, where many governments allowed them entry even when faced with domestic resistance. Orban’s position ran counter to European liberalism. He argued that Hungary was not just a place but a culture and that waves of immigrants threatened that culture and history. His position won support in Central Europe, where an anti-migration coalition formed in opposition to the prevailing view in Brussels. Over the years, Orban’s view has gained many more adherents throughout Europe.

Second, Orban was hostile to what some now refer to as “woke” culture, particularly its attitude toward homosexuality. His criticisms were partly based on a conservative understanding of Christianity but even more on the belief that homosexuality would corrupt Hungarian society. Again, he was taking a stand against European liberalism, and again his view gained acceptance in other countries over time. In the most recent Dutch election, for example, the party of Geert Wilders, an open and vigorous ally of Orban, unseated the liberal party whose erstwhile leader was one of Orban’s strongest critics.

The influence of Orban’s ideology has also reached the United States. During a March trip to the U.S., Orban had an intensive meeting with Donald Trump. Whether he changed any of Trump’s opinions is uncertain, but they apparently reached a common understanding, and both men have referenced the meeting in speeches.

Attacks On Ukrainian Nuclear Facilities ‘Must Cease Immediately’, Says IAEA

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency reiterated that attacks against nuclear power plants in Ukraine are “an absolute no go”, following direct military action targeting the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) on Sunday.

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the targeting marked a “major escalation” in the level of danger facing the power plant.

It was the first time since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in November 2022 that the ZNPP – Europe’s largest nuclear power plant – has been directly targeted. It has been occupied by Russian forces since the early weeks of the fighting.

As of Sunday, while there were “no indications” of damage to critical nuclear safety or security systems, the strikes were “another stark reminder” of the threats to the power plant and other nuclear facilities during the ongoing war, IAEA said.

“Although the damage at unit 6 has not compromised nuclear safety, this was a serious incident that had the potential to undermine the integrity of the reactor’s containment system,” Director General Grossi said.

‘A major escalation’

“This is a major escalation of the nuclear safety and security dangers facing the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. Such reckless attacks significantly increase the risk of a major nuclear accident and must cease immediately,” Mr. Grossi said.

Reiterating that no one can “conceivably benefit” or get any military or political advantage from attacks against nuclear facilities, he stressed such attacks are “an absolute no go”.

“I firmly appeal to military decision makers to abstain from any action violating the basic principles that protect nuclear facilities.”

The Future of Work in the Age of Automation


In today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, automation is revolutionizing the way we work and interact with machines. From artificial intelligence to robotics, automation is reshaping industries, transforming job roles, and raising questions about the future of work. This article delves into the implications of automation on jobs and industries, explores the skills and roles needed for the future workforce, examines the ethical considerations surrounding automated work environments, and provides insights into reskilling and upskilling strategies for workers in the age of automation.

Introduction to Automation in the Workplace

Defining Automation and Its Evolution

Automation is like the superhero of the workplace — it swoops in to save time, increase efficiency, and sometimes even wear a cool cape. But what exactly is automation, you ask? Well, it’s the use of technology to perform tasks that were traditionally done by humans. From simple repetitive tasks to complex decision-making processes, automation has come a long way from the days of clunky machinery to sleek, AI-powered systems.

Impact of Automation on Jobs and Industries

Job Displacement vs. Job Transformation

Automation isn’t just about robots stealing jobs — it’s also about transforming the way we work. While some roles may become redundant, new opportunities for creativity and innovation emerge. It’s like a career makeover — out with the old, in with the new. So, fear not, fellow humans, adaptation is the name of the game.

Industry-Specific Implications of Automation

How Tech Giants Cut Corners to Harvest Data for A.I.

Cade Metz, Cecilia Kang, Sheera Frenkel, Stuart A. Thompson and Nico Grant

In late 2021, OpenAI faced a supply problem.

The artificial intelligence lab had exhausted every reservoir of reputable English-language text on the internet as it developed its latest A.I. system. It needed more data to train the next version of its technology — lots more.

So OpenAI researchers created a speech recognition tool called Whisper. It could transcribe the audio from YouTube videos, yielding new conversational text that would make an A.I. system smarter.

Some OpenAI employees discussed how such a move might go against YouTube’s rules, three people with knowledge of the conversations said. YouTube, which is owned by Google, prohibits use of its videos for applications that are “independent” of the video platform.

Ultimately, an OpenAI team transcribed more than one million hours of YouTube videos, the people said. The team included Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president, who personally helped collect the videos, two of the people said. The texts were then fed into a system called GPT-4, which was widely considered one of the world’s most powerful A.I. models and was the basis of the latest version of the ChatGPT chatbot.

The race to lead A.I. has become a desperate hunt for the digital data needed to advance the technology. To obtain that data, tech companies including OpenAI, Google and Meta have cut corners, ignored corporate policies and debated bending the law, according to an examination by The New York Times.

At Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, managers, lawyers and engineers last year discussed buying the publishing house Simon & Schuster to procure long works, according to recordings of internal meetings obtained by The Times. They also conferred on gathering copyrighted data from across the internet, even if that meant facing lawsuits. Negotiating licenses with publishers, artists, musicians and the news industry would take too long, they said.

The AI deepfake apocalypse is here. These are the ideas for fighting it.

Gerrit De Vynck

AI-generated images are everywhere. They’re being used to make nonconsensual pornography, muddy the truth during elections and promote products on social media using celebrity impersonations.

When Princess Catherine released a video last month disclosing that she had cancer, social media went abuzz with the latest baseless claim that artificial intelligence was used to manipulate the video. Both BBC Studios, which shot the video, and Kensington Palace denied AI was involved. But it didn’t stop the speculation.

Experts say the problem is only going to get worse. Today, the quality of some fake images is so good that they’re nearly impossible to distinguish from real ones. In one prominent case, a finance manager at a Hong Kong bank wired about $25.6 million to fraudsters who used AI to pose as the worker’s bosses on a video call. And the tools to make these fakes are free and widely available.

A growing group of researchers, academics and start-up founders are working on ways to track and label AI content. Using a variety of methods and forming alliances with news organizations, Big Tech companies and even camera manufacturers, they hope to keep AI images from further eroding the public’s ability to understand what’s true and what isn’t.

“A year ago, we were still seeing AI images and they were goofy,” said Rijul Gupta, founder and CEO of DeepMedia AI, a deepfake detection start-up. “Now they’re perfect.”

Here’s a rundown of the major methods being developed to hold back the AI image apocalypse.

Watermarking AI images